Working groups

Theme 1. Cultures and people, places and identities

WG 1.1 Family, Kinship and Personal Lives

Berit Brandth, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Marit S. Haugen, Centre for Rural Research, Norway

As rural communities change by processes of migration, distance working, changes in agriculture, new labor markets and new rural-urban relations, the interest of this session is on how rural change affects gender, family and personal lives. How may for instance mobility and changing patterns of employment co-exist with maintenance of strong kinship ties? Papers may deal with the many complexities of change and stability in family- and personal relations, the importance of memory and cultural heritage, emotions, homes, friendships, the significance of inheritance and kinship relations. Emphasis may be on connectedness, relationality and embeddedness across or within particular localities. The session will welcome papers that include discussions of social and cultural variations in family life, focusing on gender and younger as well as older generations.


WG 1.2 The Evolution of Home: Experiences of Landscapes, Places and Rural Housing

Sulevi Riukulehto, University of Helsinki, Finland

Home in the meaning of ‘Heimat’ has been a crucial concept for the construction of identity in the German-speaking world. It also has equivalents in Nordic languages (‘hembygd’, ‘kotiseutu’, ‘hjemstavn’). It has served to describe feelings of comfort and belonging that are traditionally tied to a specific location, be it one’s childhood home or the current living place. Yet, in a world characterized by multilocational ways of living, second housing, increasing global influences and a fast-paced lifestyle, home cannot be described as a static concept. The homely sites and landscapes and the personal experiences in one’s homelike environment often have an essential role in constructing one’s identity. We welcome papers concerning the evolution of home in all its experiential variations. Environment is to be defined broadly, consisting of both physical and cultural features: one’s homely landscapes consist of natural, built and mental environments. We are interested in studying what makes a home for an individual? We prefer papers that have some contribution to the experiential formation of home as ‘Heimat’ in rural context.


WG 1.3 Impact of international migration on rural welfare and local development

Susanne Søholt, Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Norway

Aadne Aasland, Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Norway

Considerable research has been carried out on how urban regions have changed and keep changing as a result of various forms of increased international migration. Less is known about migration to rural regions, partly due to the fact that large-scale immigration to rural areas in Europe is a newer phenomenon. This session seeks to address this gap by inviting papers on various aspects of migration to rural districts, in the Nordic countries and elsewhere. The papers may deal with one rural settlement or several, and international comparisons are particularly welcome. We invite both theoretical and empirical contributions – and combinations of the two, as weel as qualitative and quantitative apporaches.  Potential papers may deal with how rural areas develop and change as a result of increased migration. What is the impact of local conditions on the sustainability of temporary and permanent immigration to rural areas? In particular, how do the labour market, the local welfare regime and civil society in a locality encourage or discourage migration? Papers addressing the importance of policy at local, regional, national and international levels are encouraged. Migrants’ (labour migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, family immigrants, irregular immigrants) experiences in their new place of living and their economic and social links with other localities (translocalism and transnational social fields) are also potential themes of papers.


WG 1.4 Interregional migration CANCELLED

Andrea Hjálmsdóttir, University of Akureyri, Iceland

Vifill Karlsson, University of Akureyri and West Iceland Regional Office, Iceland

Migration from rural to urban areas is a well-known development throughout the western world, but it is reason to believe that the migration pattern is varied between individuals and thus aspects of social relations, time, gender, age and locations matters for the topic. In this session, studies of both the reasons for interregional migration as well as the impact of the migration on local communities, industries, gender and other individual groups will be presented. Studies on the different characteristics of migration are also suitable for this session. Other aspects of interregional migration will also be considered for this session, such as historical development, normative challenges, policies and environmental aspects.


WG 1.5 Open session on Cultures and people, places and identities

Thoroddur Bjarnason, University of Akureyri, Iceland

Nordic rural communities are being redefined and rural areas are in a state of flux. Mobility and migration are increasing and new rural-urban relations, disparities and complementarities emerging. Distance working and migrating labor are increasing, as well as the number of second homes. Depopulation continues in many regions, while some rural areas are thriving. The importance of place and of location is changing. These processes affect social cohesion and social differentiation in rural areas as well as the construction of identities across borders and places.

This is an open session for papers that fit under the theme Cultures and people, places and identities, but not into any of the proposed workshops. The convener may suggest independent sessions on specific topics based on submitted abstracts or refer abstracts to existing workgroups.

Theme 2. Natural resources governance and landscape management

WG 2.1 Closing the marine commons as a tool of resource governance: Inevitable developments and alternative solutions CANCELLED

Níels Einarsson, Stefansson Arctic Institute, Iceland

This session focusses on fisheries governance and the social, economic, financial, legal and ecological implications of rights-based resource management systems as a method of regulating common-pool natural resources. What are the societal impacts of the large-scale use of market-based governance philosophies? Are there any viable alternatives to the introduction of private property rights regimes in the effective management of what have traditionally been perceived as common-property resources harvested within social relations of open access rights? A special emphasis will be on fisheries and fishing communities in the Nordic region but studies and presentations with an international perspective and on terrestrial and other resources are also welcome.


WG 2.2 Partnership for natural resource governance and sustainable rural development CANCELLED

Lina Holmgren, University of Umeå, Sweden

Serena Cinque, University of Gothenburg & University of Umeå, Sweden

Natural resource management is from a rural perspective characterized by a number of dilemmas. In rural areas, food, minerals, fuel, hydroelectricity and fiber are produced and exploited for the benefit of the whole country. Simultaneously, the rural population is supposed to protect the rural environment, to manage and conserve national resources, and develop local industries (e.g. tourism, but lately also local small-scale food industries) to profit from the resources available. The multifunctional focus on production and protection, competition between land use activities, complex property and usufruct rights as well as an urban-rural and society level division regarding the use of natural resources tends to generate tensions between different interests. To face these challenges, governance arrangements or new (environmental) policy initiatives referred to as public-private-partnership, has recently been adopted by several European countries. Generally viewed as reflecting the rise of what is called ‘the new localism’, partnership has opened up the rural arena for many other actors beyond the local level (e.g. NGOs, businesses) to influence the future of rural areas, thereby embedding rural populations within new formations of power relations. This panel focuses on policy-oriented partnerships adopted to manage natural resources and to achieve sustainable development. In particular, we would like to emphasis the output of partnership arrangements moving beyond the formal mechanisms steering the process.  Partnership can in this context be understood as reinforcement of governmental policies through collaboration with local actors aiming to open up for innovative approaches. To what extent has collaboration with local actors created enough space to accommodate local interests and livelihood needs? From an institutional perspective, what kinds of rules and regulation (at different societal levels) have been developed for different partnership arrangements? Do partnerships represent a strategy that has achieved policy changes, or should they be considered as an additional arrangement for citizens’ involvement?


WG 2.3 The forest as provider of goods and services   – local interests and global demands

Gun Lidestav, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden (contact person)

Olof Stjernström, Umeå University, Sweden

Mariann Villa, Centre for Rural Research, Norway

Sari Pitkänen, University of Eastern Finland, Finland

Tove Enggrob Boon, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Suzanne Elizabeth Vedel, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The Nordic countries have deep-rooted traditions of civic movements that have fostered considerable inter-group trust and cooperation as well as provision of collective goods. In rural areas, many of these movements have been centred on the use of land and water resources, shaping the way resources such as farmer/forest owner associations, forest commons, village communities, hunting teams are used. Also, as urban residents spend leisure time in urban fringe forests and/or their second home in the countryside, they lobby for the protection of nature and also use different collective goods  through the right of access to private land (‘allmansrätten’).  In this session we encourage papers discussing the role of forest  as provider of a whole range of eco-system services for the individual as well as local society and the state, and how to balance the different interests and often competing demands. We welcome contributions adressing the following questions:

  • How is forest included (or not) in comprehensive planning? What methods and tools have been applied and studied in order to enhance the integration of forest in community planning and vice versa?
  • How do demands and expectations of eco-system services from forest vary in different rural areas?
  • How is forest campaigned in the Nordic countries in relation to rural community development?
  • Rural development politics and  natural resource management in the Nordic countries –  what literature exists on the topic?
  • How globalized is a local nature resource? The opposing perspectives of rural areas as enriching or depleting. Who has the right to decide and how? How to develop common local decision systems and self-governance?

WG 2.4 Innovation or invasion? Commodification of the outfields

Frode Flemsæter, Centre for Rural research, Norway

Katrina Rønningen, Centre for Rural Research, Norway

We are observing a clear trend of intensified and diversified commodification and commercialisation of the outfields’ (‘utmark’) natural resources. Commodification denotes processes where resources such as goods and services, but also ideas, are transformed into a commodity, and thus made marketable and open to commercialisation. Natural resources in the outfields have a multitude of uses such as; (1) high quality grassland, a pool for environmental goods, as raw materials for industries; (2) as instruments in national policies for coping with climate change and achieving commitments on biodiversity and nature management; (3) as resources for tourism and rural development in the experience economy, as well as for indigeneous and local uses linked to eg. fishing, hunting, reindeer herding, and recreation; and (4) as an arena and resource for wind and hydro power production and a renewed interest for mineral extraction in the high north. The use of natural resources in the outfields relies on various forms of land use rights or property rights. These are adapted from historic resource use, but it is not evident whether the institutional system they constitute is able to adapt to and sustainably manage contemporary commodification processes.

We welcome here a broad view of the commodification of material and non-material natural resources in the Nordic outfields. Of particular interest is the interrelationship between commodification processes and the unsettlement of established formal and informal systems of land rights and use, including how the outfields are used and perceived by indigenous groups.


WG 2.5 Open session on Natural resources governance and landscape management

Hanne Wittorff Tanvig, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

New pressures, interests and claims on the use of natural resources and on landscapes lead to processes of innovation, re-evaluation as well as depletion. Natural resources are not just valuable economic resources, but also ecological, political and social resources. Continuities in both natural resource governance and landscape management are questioned and transformed. Yet, path dependencies and institutional contexts shape activities as well. Multifunctional and sustainable landscapes and use of natural resources have become some of the keywords.

This is an open session for papers that fit under the theme Natural resources governance and landscape management, but not into any of the proposed workshops. The convener may suggest independent sessions on specific topics based on submitted abstracts or refer abstracts to existing workgroups.


Theme 3. Rural economy and entrepreneurship

WG 3.1 Regional knowledge development, innovation systems and entrepreneurship

Ingi Runar Edvardsson, University of Iceland, Iceland

Peter Weiss, University Centre of the Westfjords, Iceland

Egil Petter Stræte, Centre for Rural Research, Norway

This working group focuses on the development of regional and rural welfare through knowledge building in the region, knowledge development, knowledge transfer and knowledge management. The working group will look both at academic institutions as instrument of regional development, and also on innovation systems, and interaction that influence flow of knowledge between various regional actors. Knowledge development is of significance in many relations involved in economic activities and welfare development. These relations and actors can be studied from different angels and approaches. We welcome papers, theoretical as well as empirical, on the following topics:

  • Regional universities/academic institutes and their role in regional development
  • The limits of local universities (under-estimated and over-burdened)
  • Clusters of knowledge
  • Interaction between universities and local actors
  • Regional innovation systems
  • Triple helix
  • Establishment of new firms – entrepreneurship
  • Regional culture and entrepreneurship

WG 3.2 Reconfiguring the local – small and large-scale food production

Jeppe Høst, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Food production has historically been a central activity in many rural economies, but has been decreasing in importance due to changes in production and global competition. Large-scale production and global distribution networks have contributed to a neutralization of place and harmonization of local variations in production, look and taste. However recently, local niche and high quality food production seems to have been experiencing a revival. In that process, the ‘local’ and the notion of ‘place’ have become new value markers pointing at both cultural meanings and new consumer habits, while new distribution systems, have been set up to link consumers and small scale producers – often emphasizing the direct and personal linkages. In contrast to the large-scale sector, local food production is often embedded in tourism and leisure life in both urban as in rural areas, and perhaps reflects changes in the long term social composition of the rural population. This working group invites for a discussion of both continuities and innovations involved in the reconfiguring of the local food production, and encourage contributions that seek to understand local and the large-scale food systems together – in both their co-existence and internal competition, as ways to organize different livelihoods, cultural meanings and as distinct policy objects.


WG 3.3 Employment related mobilities, an undercurrent unnoticed?

Anna Karlsdóttir, University of Iceland, Iceland

Employment-related mobility (ERM) occurs when workers regularly and repeatedly cross municipal, regional or national boundaries to get to and from their place of employment, sometimes working in multiple worksites (e.g. construction and home care workers) or in mobile workplaces (cruise and cargo ships and trucks). Employment-related mobility is sometimes a requirement of the job, as with the transportation and construction sectors and remote workplaces. It can be a result of efforts by workers, sometimes in conjunction with families, to accommodate the competing demands of preferred or affordable housing, access to family and community support, and making a living in the context of economic volatility. Alternatively, as with many international migrant workers, policies and regulatory practices often prevent workers from moving homes and families to a geographical area close to their work. How do exisiting studies of contemporary rural life grasp pathways and motivations for ERM? What varieties of motivations influence decisions to engage in ERM? Do they include workers‟ sense of being socially marginalized in their home communities? In many countries, at present it is impossible to generate an accurate picture (past and present) of the flow of employment-related mobile workers in and out of workplaces, within and across districts and into and out of the country, as well as their associated cultures, ideas, goods, wealth and the other benefits and costs. These knowledge gaps are particularly troubling because they limit our ability to assess the impacts of employment-related mobility on businesses, demand for and effectiveness of government programs, community sustainability, and the day-to-day lives of workers and their households. We therefore invite papers that in one way or another evolve around the issues of ERM and community viability or decline.


WG 3.4 Prerequisites and possibilities for rural entrepreneurship CANCELLED

Hans Westlund, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm & Jönköping International Business School, Sweden

Rural areas have in general a higher share of firms per inhabitant than urban areas. However, rural areas tend to have a higher share of their firms in sectors where employment is decreasing. A number of factors have been suggested to explain the differences in start-up rates and firms’ sector shares between rural and urban areas such as: Accessibility to purchasing power, Share of university educated, Innovation potential, Local culture, Traditions and social capital, Share of population being employed, Access to startup capital, Age structure, Population density, Political decisions. It may also be related to that certain forms of entrepreneurship are more common in rural contexts. This working group aims at encouraging studies on the prerequisites and possibilities for rural entrepreneurship. The studies can be performed with different methods and at various levels.


Theme 4. Policies and politics of the rural

WG 4.1 The rural problem: shifting governance, policy and theory CANCELLED

Jeppe Høst, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Michael Kull, MTT Agrifood Research, Finland & Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

The rural as a site for development and governance has undergone several transformations in response to changes in agricultural production, urbanization and shifts in welfare state strategies.  Currently rural areas in most Nordic countries face new transformations and repositioning of their relation to urban areas; amalgamation of municipalities, decrease in agricultural employment, increasing recreational use, branding and marketing of regions and the so-called new rural paradigm. What is the status of the new rural paradigm suggested by the OECD in 2006, as a theoretical and practical policy tool and its position in a wider rural development context? Are our tools and methodologies suitable to reflect the diversity of rural areas and the different meanings agriculture and other economic activities have in specific rural spaces, or do we need improved rural typologies? Does the strong focus on positive development conceal power relations and critical social transformations in both policy and academic work, and what is the role of the academic and the rural development theory in this matter? Do we need a more holistic take on rural areas, i.e. approaches that are able to understand the intertwinement and calibration of hierarchical governance, network governance and market governance – as for instance the meta-governance approach.

This working group invites for reflections on the historical and current changes in rural governance and the underlying shifting theoretical foundations that shape both the policy work as well as research in the “rural problem”. We invite papers that are theoretical, empirical or both and which reflect on Nordic countries, the EU and beyond.


WG 4.2 Controversies of tourism CANCELLED

Edward H. Huijbens, Icelandic Tourism Research Centre, Iceland

Gunnar Þór Jóhannesson, University of Iceland, Iceland

This session focuses on tourism in the context of the Nordic rural economy. Tourism is commonly pegged as the avenue for diversification and rural sustenance in the periphery of the Nordic countries. This session will focus on the manifestations of controversy when actual tourism development takes place in this context. Controversy is probably the norm of tourism development, and most certainly underpins much of its development. Controversies provide opportunities to study the social world and its making. On this basis, the session invites papers investigating and understanding various controversies related to rural tourism development and how a host of mobilities are weaved together to provide for a destination. Papers can e.g. explore the geographies of production and consumption of rural tourism and issues of sustainability in rural tourism. Controversies roughly centered on flows sustaining rural tourism and the destination invites a scope for two distinct strands of papers, one being on destination development and the other on rural tourism mobilities, drawing on the mobilities paradigm.


WG 4.3 Political practices of rurality and local practices of policy

Patrik Cras, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Kjell Hansen, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Cecilia Waldenström, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

The working group will discuss the role of politics and policies in relation to questions of rural development, both in terms of everyday life and in terms of local social organization and management of resources. The focus of the group will be on local actions in relation to policies and political decisions rather than on the implementation of policies. Examples of themes might be effects of policies, such as the RDP, on local social organization; mobilizations and actions to promote local services in relation to government decisions; ways to sharpen local social life into political organizations; the role of landownership in relation to policy demands for diversification; or local actions in relation to national policies on natural resource management (for instance mining or biogas). We welcome papers addressing how politics open or close local resources (in a broad sense), as well as papers discussing local practices in relation to policies. The working group also welcomes papers addressing how certain images of the rural tend to influence policies, and how political discourses tend to include some, and exclude other ruralities and rural groups. The working group wants to attract papers that lead a theoretically inspired discussion on concrete empirical examples, rather than general (not empirically evidenced) discussions on concepts or trends.


WG 4.4 The social impact of infrastructure improvements CANCELLED

Thoroddur Bjarnason, University of Akureyri, Iceland

Many rural regions face important challenges in transportation infrastructure, although major improvements have been made in recent years. The social, economic and cultural effects of such improvements are not well understood. This workshop welcomes a wide array of papers on the effects of changes in transportation in rural areas. Topics may include changes in infrastructure such as the bridging of islands, tunneling of mountains, road and rail construction or establishment of airports as well as changes in the organization of public transportation or new destinations for discount airlines. Issues of particular interest include but are not limited to:

  • Cost-benefit analysis of infrastructure improvement
  • Partnership with local stakeholders in tourism
  • Gendered aspects of travel and transportation
  • Population growth or decline in the wake of improved infrastructure
  • Public transportation and specific challenges in sparsely populated areas
  • Alternative forms of transport
  • Changing cultural images of community and place

The primary aim of the workshop is to share experiences, methodologies and insights across different geographical and cultural settings in the Nordic countries. This workshop also welcomes papers that seek to address solutions in terms of transport and everyday travelling, from regional perspectives. Policy-oriented papers are especially encouraged.


WG 4.5 Place-based development and policy in rural communities

Ilkka Luoto, University of Vaasa, Finland

The place-based strategies applied in rural research, development work and policy, have been proposed as a way to meet the needs of sparsely populated areas in the rapidly changing operational environment in Nordic societies.  In place-based philosophy, ‘place’ is understood as a central concept for human life and actions. It represents bonding, emotional attachment, identity and cultural enrichment. Secondly, place is a venue and condensation point of social relations, events and networks. Thirdly, place opens an arena for participation and sharing by creating a multi-layered platform for cross-sectoral partnerships. In the current economic climate, the effects of global trends differ within the statistically and administratively defined regions, inducing rapid and unpredictable consequences – dysfunction and new emergent functions – that are not easy to recognize or define territorially. This polarization of development leads to thriving and declining localities and at the same time, misinterpretations of a hidden regional potential, which could be founded, for example, in small rural communities. Should we have more suitable research methods targeted at the local level instead of the regional level? What kind of place-based development methods and tools could be used and how? Could a more holistic perspective of place give an additional value for researchers? The general idea of the working group is to map out how much interest and progress exists in the Nordic countries related to place-based theories, methods and models. For this working group, all papers that deliberate theoretical and practical understanding of places in the context of rural are welcomed. Especially, suggestions highlighting the idea of place as a central operational concept within rural research and development work are on the convener’s wish list.


WG 4.6 Open session on Policies and politics of the rural

Tuija Mononen, University of Eastern Finland, Finland

Rural and agricultural politics and policies increasingly open for new constellations in the rural development bringing new kinds of conflicts to the fore. A dilemma inherent to the balance of subsidiarity and common regulations emerges. Changing regional policies, the new CAP and welfare state regimes also affect rural areas.

This is an open session for papers that fit under the theme Policies and politics of the rural, but not into any of the proposed workshops. The convener may suggest independent sessions on specific topics based on submitted abstracts or refer abstracts to existing workgroups.